Saturday, May 23, 2015

Great First Lines: Middle Grade Edition

The Summer Reading Program is coming, and one of my favorite things about this time of year is visiting elementary schools and talking to the students about books and reading. I love having elementary school students judge books by their covers and first lines. A couple of weeks ago, I did a post on great first lines in young adult fiction; today, I'm sharing the great first lines from the books I took to my elementary school visits, along with the students' reactions.

"The calendar said early March, but the smell in the air said late October."
--The Night Gardener by Jonathan Auxier

Not surprisingly, the kids didn't love that first line, but they did love the cover of the book.

"The way I see it, I stopped being a kid on April 12, 1951."
--Catch You Later, Traitor by Avi

This was another first line they didn't love, but the students asked me to keep reading, and by the time we got through the first four (short) paragraphs, they were hooked.

"There were so many dead bodies stuffed into Gram's freezer chest that it was kind of like wandering through a cryonics lab."
--Turn Left at the Cow by Lisa Bullard

The kids loved this line so much that they asked me to read it a second time.

"'Stay out of trouble.' Kids hear that all the time, and most of the time, we barely pay attention. But when an FBI agent says it, and it's the fourth time in two weeks that you've been to the federal building in Boston? You listen."
--Ollie and the Science of Treasure Hunting by Erin Dionne

This was actually the first three paragraphs of the book, and this was one book that had a variety of reactions. Some kids liked it, some didn't, and most were undecided.

"Rye and her two friends had never intended to steal the banned book from the Angry Poet--they'd just hoped to read it."
--The Luck Uglies by Paul Durham

Most of the kids liked this line, and why not? I'm intrigued enough by characters stealing a banned book from an angry poet, and the kids were, too.

"I was on my tippy-toes, bouncing up and down on the first step of the bus, stuck behind my second cousin, Danisha, and her melon-sized butt."
--Upside Down in the Middle of Nowhere by Julie T. Lamana

This line got a ton of laughs, which was what I was going for. One class had me read it a second time just because they thought it was hilarious.

"Of all the items that can clog your plumbing, an overweight Arctic mammal is probably the worst."
--Timmy Failure: Now Look What You've Done by Stephan Pastis

Some of the kids liked this line, but most didn't, which surprised me.

"In the shadow of our apple tree, looking out across a river at a city full of glass and whispers, I take my dad's hand and watch our enemy fly toward us."
--The Dark Wild by Piers Torday

Everyone loved this line, which wasn't a surprise.

"'Elliot von Doppler, you come down here right now or I swear, I'll boil you in soup and serve you to your father'!"
--The Creature Department by Robert Paul Weston

I've used this book two years in a row at these events, and each time, almost everyone loved it.

What are your favorite first lines in middle grade fiction? Let us know in the comments!

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